Why have you previously participated in the Women’s 5K Walk/Run this year?
I signed up for the virtual 5km event in 2020 simply because I could. 5km was a doable challenge 19 months after breast cancer diagnosis.
What inspired your team to do the event and raise funds for Cancer Council Tasmania?
I started regular walking in January 2020. They were just short walks to start with because I was so fatigued and sore from surgery, chemo and radiation during 2019. Initially, I could barely walk up our driveway without needing to stop. Finding a comfortable sports bra that fit my new shape had also been a challenge, but once I found THE ONE, I felt secure in exercising more vigorously. I gradually improved my fitness and strength and walking a 4-5km route through forestry tracks near my rural home became pretty standard.
Then came COVID and lockdown and I set myself a target of covering 100km during April. I finished 3km shy of my target, but I felt so accomplished. I had started alternating walking with slow shuffling, gradually increasing how far I could cover “not walking”. I was never going to be a Olympic runner but COVID was the catalyst for my new fitness regime. From May, I was moving faster and covering more ground, regularly shuffling/jogging 1km which I gradually extended into 2km, 3km ,4km and 5km stretches. When I saw the Cancer Council 5km was a virtual event, I decided I could do it along the forestry tracks I had been enjoying and training began in earnest. On the day of the event, I covered the 5km 7 minutes faster than I had ever recorded, never stopping once. That was HUGE for me! I truly felt the strength of my supporters pushing me to succeed that day.
How has Cancer Council Tasmania supported you in the past?
I hired a wig from the Cancer Council’s Wig Library early on in my chemotherapy treatment. I never actually wore it out in public, but it was nice to know that I had it as an option if I needed it. It was astonishing to see how big the library was and trying on different styles gave some moments of levity in an otherwise distressing time.
If you are comfortable please share about your Cancer Journey and the importance of your community helping you through?
I had been having biannual mammograms since the age of 40 due to family history of breast cancer. I had my 5th routine mammogram in the Breast Screen bus in Burnie late January 2019 and a week later I received the call no-one wants to get. I was told there was some difference in tissue density they’d like to investigate further. Three days later on Friday 8 February, I had my cancer diagnosis confirmed. They’d found a tumour the size of a golf ball in my left breast. I had breast conservation surgery on my 48th birthday 21 March and was confirmed that the tumour was a grade 3 invasive ductal carcinoma with associated high-grade DCIS, ER/PR positive, HER2 negative. Tissue the size of an avocado was removed from my left breast and my right breast had minor reductive surgery at the same time.
In preparation for chemotherapy and because I didn’t think my veins could cope with injections of chemotherapy in my arm, I had surgery in April to have a port inserted in my chest. I started six rounds of chemotherapy on 10th May, to be delivered three weeks apart, with the final treatment on 23rd August. Skin pimples, scratchy eyes, weight gain, retention of fluid, total hair loss of sense of taste and appetite and general fed-upness characterised this period. I generally got through this far better than expected. Discomfort from the port was the worst part of this time.
Radiation treatment commenced 13th September with 32 rounds ending on 31 October. This was far worse than chemo. My skin got terribly burnt and I was in a lot of pain. Radiation really knocked me about towards the end.
I decided to get the port removed mid-December as it had caused no end of trouble and pain through the year. It was the best feeling ever to have it removed.
I commenced hormone treatment in early 2020 with monthly Zolodex injections (that I changed to three monthly after first three painful experiences) and daily Exemestane tablets. I am now halfway through this treatment regime and remain cancer-free.
I could not have gone through 2019 without my squad. My wonderful husband and three teenage kids. My extended family and friends who visited, sent care packages, books, texts just checking in, delivered meals, phoned and loved generously. My medical team, including a fabulous Breast Care nurse, who gave me confidence in the system and who want the best outcome for me. And the random strangers who reached out to wish me well and show their care.
Since that horror year, I’ve completed the Cancer Council 5km run in September 2020, Burnie Ten in October 2021 and Gone Nuts 25km adventure trail event in March 2022, training and completing the latter two with fabulous work colleagues. I’ve never felt fitter, stronger and lighter than I am today, losing more than 15kg in the last year through all my exercise.